US returns stolen archaeological artifacts to Italy

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The United States on Thursday returned to Italy stolen artifacts worth at least $90,000, dating back as far as the 8th century BC but looted and trafficked overseas, officials said.

The items include a Sardinian bronze ox and Sardinian bronze warrior from the 8th century BC, a Greek bronze Heracles from the 3rd or 4th century BC and a 4th-century BC drinking cup depicting two goats butting heads.

There was also a wine jug decorated with rams and panthers dated 650 BC, a 340 BC oil flask depicting a man holding a plate of fruit and a similar flask decorated with a man holding a lyre, dating back to 430 BC.

Six of the items were seized from a Manhattan gallery in April as part of an ongoing investigation into international antiquities trafficking. The seventh object was seized from a different gallery in another part of Midtown Manhattan, US officials said.

The antiquities were stolen in the 1990s from burial sites and places of archaeological significance in Italy before they were smuggled overseas, one official said.

New York, America’s cultural and financial capital, is a major hub in the international art market, packed with galleries and auction houses.

“Art galleries, auction houses, academic institutions and collectors must be vigilant about recognizing and identifying signs of theft and trafficking,” Manhattan district attorney Cyrus Vance said.

Italy’s consul general in New York, Francesco Genuardi, welcomed the return of what he called “seven marvelous and valuable objects.”

The returned artifacts will go on display in museums.

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